Trash for rice: Bali recycling scheme gives families pandemic lifeline

The pandemic has prevented the foreign tourists that usually
throng businesses like his on the Indonesian resort island from coming and
rising food prices have compounded the economic pain.

But a local non-profit group is offering help by exchanging
rice for plastic trash that is then sold to a recycling company.

“Every piece of plastic waste is very valuable for the
villagers today and for our economy,” said Rupat, who exchanged about four
kg (9.5 pounds) of plastic for one kg of rice.

Rice costs about 15,000-20,000 rupiah ($1.05-1.40) per kg
and locals estimate a family of four consumes about two kg per day of the
staple, so the trade-in is worth the effort.

The Bali Plastic Exchange was founded in May last year by I
Made Janur Yasa, who like many Balinese saw his main business running a vegan
restaurant hit hard by the pandemic.

The 55-year-old said the driving force behind his project
was a desire to feed communities in his home province in Bali and to improve
the environment.

Indonesia is the world’s second biggest contributor of
plastic pollutants in the oceans, according to a 2019 study published in the
journal Science.

There’s no limit on how much plastic waste a person can
bring in, though organisers encourage people to collect trash from their own

After spreading via word of mouth, the initiative had helped
support about 40,000 families in 200 villages, while recycling nearly 600 tons
(544 tonnes) of plastic waste, said Yasa.

“This programme has been very well received by
community members,” said Yasa, who hopes to expand it to other provinces
in Indonesia.

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